31 March 2006

Dance of Joy

"Thank you for submitting the revised version of your manuscript entitled 'Coverage of Genome Wide Association Studies'. It has now been seen by one of the original referees, and in light of his/her comments, we are happy to offer publication in principle as a Letter."

28 March 2006


I really don't think I'd be happy living in a climate without discernible season change. We moved the clocks forward an hour last weekend (from GMT to BST) which means more sunlight in the afternoon (as well as a 6 hour time difference to the Eastern USA for this one week). This, along with fairly mild temperatures this week, has left me with Spring on the mind. It's nice to hear the birds being noisy again and to see the first blossoms on the early blooming trees.

I also finally understand exactly why the lamb is a symbol of Easter. Becki, James and I drove from Oxford to Milton Keynes on Sunday to go shopping (FYI English malls are as grim as their American cousins). The A34 is closed for roadworks so we ended up chugging along backroads through such fabulous villages as Horton-cum-Studley. Driving among the sheep fields, while slower than the motorway, allowed us to see all the little lambs tottering after their mums. All those wobbly lambs somehow capture that feeling of Spring renewal more succinctly than birds and flowers.

23 March 2006


The Martyr's Memorial on Magdalen Street commemorates the burning at the stake of Hugh Latimer, Thomas Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley in the 1550s. Queen Mary had them executed (along with some 300 other Protestants) for refusing to submit to the authority of the Pope. That is, in England, 450 years ago, the penalty for heresy was death.

Why is it then, that only one of the world's major religions has been left behind in the Middle Ages? In one of the supposedly "democratic" Muslim nations, "liberated from tyrrany" by Americans, it is evidently a capital crime to convert to Christianity. I mean, how is it possible that there are still places where this happens? Historians out there: What happened (or, more likely, failed to happen) in the Islamic world that prevented it from joining the rest of humanity beyond the age of martyrs?

22 March 2006


Lon and I received a reply to our manuscript on Sunday the 12th asking for revisions before further consideration. In academia-land this is a pretty positive response, especially since none of the revisions were major. When Lon was presented with the increasingly real possibility of having this work appear in Nature Genetics he really cracked down no me to make the manuscript "perfect", even above and beyond the reviewers' comments. His reasoning was basically that any research with our names going into a top-tier journal needs to be bullet-proof so that we can avoid having to duke it out with anybody down the road on the editorial page.

To that end I've been in FULL TOOL MODE (does it still say that on the roach highway above M202?) for the past ten days. Although it's been a lot of work (I was here until 11:30PM on Saturday—w00t) I have to admit that it has seriously strengthened the manuscript. Anyway, today I pushed the button to submit our revisions and now the waiting starts again to see if it's all been worthwhile or just a tremendous waste of time.

On an unrelated note, we're going to be spending some "Equipment Capital" soon, I think I'm gonna get me a MacBook Pro.

21 March 2006


I just found out today that in the UK you measure your tire pressure in bars. My flatmate said, "I checked my tire pressure and it was down to 1!"

18 March 2006

Green Dinner

JcbspecsI went to dinner at Green College last Thursday with the same crew from Dinacre a month ago. I'm pictured at left in my new spectacles. Green's another graduate college so it lacks the centuries-old gravitas of the more traditional colleges, but it has some really lovely grounds (to which ShazAm and Scotticus can testify). The food was mediocre, but we had a nice time at dinner and went out for cocktails afterwards.

BstairsWe also got to check out the top of the Observatory, where Blanca posed for a picture on the cool staircase leading from the lower deck to the upper. Scott and I tried to sneak up here at the Ball last year, but the door was locked and all we found were couples making out on the staircase outside.

The last few days have been a little too boozy, since we closed out a couple of bars on Thursday night and then I went out for the requisite numerous pints of Guinness last night.

15 March 2006

Divine Guidance?

The address labels on the DVD envelopes from lovefilm.com also include the first name and last initial of the worker who packaged your DVD (presumably for their own tracking process). Today I noticed my latest Sopranos DVD was selected with a little help from the man upstairs:


[Ed: I changed the image for one that's easier to read. Typepad sucks ass and made me delete the post and create it again to accomplish this, in case you're wondering why your RSS aggregator is freaking out.]

13 March 2006

Crap English Towns

England is literally chock-a-block full of crappy little villages. You can't walk out your front door without tripping over one. Thankfully the English are a sensible people and have given their crappy villages crappy names. I present for your enjoyment and/or edification, my favourite Crappy English Village Names:

  • Winterbourne Monkton, Wiltshire

  • Worminghall, Buckinghamshire

  • Lower Assendon, Oxfordshire

  • Crowmarsh Gifford, Oxfordshire

  • Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire

  • Ugley Green, Essex

  • Grimblethorpe, Lincolnshire

Just take a stroll through google maps some time and you too can experience the crappy English countryside!

Mac Complaint

I have to admit that I have a Mac complaint, something I almost never have. I can't satisfy myself with a browser that fills all my needs. On any other platform (Windows or Linux) Firefox is ne plus ultra, but I find the OS X version (FF 1.5 on OS X 10.4.5) to annoy me sometimes. The biggest problem I have is that seemingly at random it will be incredibly slow to enter text in a form (lagging many seconds behind my typing). It also scrolls really slowly and must have some cache checking problem because scrolling also cause the hard drive to start clicking.

I had these problems before and I remember web searching to find something (maybe having to do with OS X's font cache?) to fix it, but now it's back and I've been searching and pulling my hair out to no avail. Anybody else have this issue? Anybody have a clue what the story is?

Safari is a reasonable alternative but lacks a few things that I've become accustomed to in FF (AdBlock, the ability to have wikipedia and IMDB in my drop down search box) and doesn't deal with some sites adequately (for instance it can't handle the fancy rendering on the Typepad UI that I'm currently using).

Mac fiends who read this bløg, do you have any advice?

Family Outings: Avebury and Henley

Rube_7Ellie, David and I have all become bored with spending Sundays in the house (or even in Oxford at large). So the past two weekends we've made forays into the English countryside to see what the world has to offer. Last week we went to Avebury, site of the largest stone circle in the world. After getting slightly lost in the hideous town of Swindon, Interestingly, the modern village of Avebury sits entirely within the outer ring or henge of stones. Here I am, pictured at left standing next to one of the stones.

Ditch_and_bermA deep ditch and berm surround the site, which has been carbon dated to be something on the order of 4500 years old. Within the circumference of this ditch is the outer ring of stones, a sufficient number of which still exist to allow you to follow them around the outside of the village. Evidently there were two inner rings which have now largely been destroyed.

After wandering around among the stones (and getting our feet muddy) we stepped into one of the village pubs, which like 90% of pubs in England has one of only a few names, in this case The Red Lion. I'd give the Avebury Red Lion a B-. It was quaint and had a nice atmosphere inside, but the food looked pretty nasty (we didn't eat there) and it didn't feel quite as old as it should've, given the surroundings.

This past Sunday we decided to go to Henley, a picturesque village on the Thames. I brought my camera, but there wasn't anything very scenic to photograph. The river walk was nice, but the day was grey (and cold!) so nothing jumped out as being interesting enough to take a picture (which is saying a lot since I got fired up enough at Avebury to photograph some rocks). Supposedly it's nice to go to Henley in the Summer and take a boat downriver to see some of the big houses on the shore. We checked out the locks and salmon ladder and then headed back into the town.

We ducked into the Angel (another common pub name) which gets a C- on the pub scale. It was tended by incompetent Hungarian chicks instead of the standard grim Englishmen. They couldn't operate the credit card rig, kept talking to their Hungarian friends at the bar instead of serving anyone and overcharged me. Plus they closed at 5PM that day, for no obvious reason (they just turned the lights out). They did have a Jenga game that we played, though, which is the only thing keeping them above the Pass/Fail line.

<i>Mystic River</i>

I have a memory problem. I can read a novel and thoroughly enjoy it, yet I can often recall none of the details of the plot a year later. I also tend to do things like forget my girlfriend's birthday (I know yours is soon, Lu!) but I'm not sure if it's the same flaw in my brain. At any cost, I read Mystic River a few years ago but never got around to seeing the film, despite it's generally rave reviews. I was quite proud of myself, therefore, when about 10 minutes into the film I remembered all the plot twists and details from the novel. I won't spoil them here, but it made me feel like I'm not senile yet.

As for the film proper, (this is trite, I know) it wasn't as good as the book. It's not bad for an adaptation, but it loses some of the emotional grittiness of the novel. The Boston accents that everyone affects are really atrocious (Laura Linney actually sounds Australian), but I was generally impressed by the acting (especially Tim Robbins). Altogether a worthwhile flick, especially since they mention the Cantab within the first 10 minutes. Pickin' Tuesday anybody?

11 March 2006

I wish this were I

If you search for Barrett JC in PubMed you get some pretty awesome research articles, including:

Assessment of genotoxicity of 14 chemical agents used in dental
practice: Ability to induce chromosome aberrations in Syrian hamster
embryo cells.

09 March 2006


Today's Wine Recommendation of the Day is the 2000 Bourgogne Rouge from Coulanges la Vineuse. It's a wonderfully drinkable red that went very well with the sea bass at dinner last night. Red with fish you ask? The Don sitting across from me (he's been having dinner at Brasenose since he came up as an undergraduate in 1948) said he prefers red with meatier fishes like sea bass or swordfish; I'm inclined to agree.

07 March 2006

<i>No Direction Home</i>

Martin Scorcese wins again with another rockumentary, this one about Bob Dylan. It details Dylan's progression as a "musical expeditionary" from middle-of-nowhere Minnesota to Voice of a Generation (i.e. the early part of his career). It features some great archival footage of lots of folk artists (Dave Van Ronk, Pete Seeger, Liam Clancy) and beat poets (most notably Alan Ginsburg). It prompted me to make a couple of observations about Dylan:

  1. He's a maniac. He constructs his sentences in ways that are just slightly bizarre. It's hard to put your finger on it, but it sounds like he's from another planet. When he was first trying to get a recording contract he made up this ridiculous life-history (at the age of 22) of how he had been raised in New Mexico and travelled all over the place as a child. In reality he never left Duluth, MN until he went to NYC to hang out in Greenwich village to hang out with the aforementioned folk singers, beat poets and assorted weirdos.

  2. Watching his early live performances he doesn't do much trickiness with his guitar. He basically just has some back-and-forth strumming. The more ornate arrangements from the middle and late portions of his career seem to be actually played by backing bands etc.

Anyway, the film is a must-see for any Dylan fan and otherwise pretty boring.

05 March 2006


My #3 home jersey is very promiscuous:

Pokey → Boomer → Edgarrrr → Mark Loretta

Who is Loretta, anyway? The new 2nd baseman?

03 March 2006

Ale Verses

On Shrove Tuesday Brasenose traditionally holds an evening meal called "Ale Verses" where college members set satirical words to popular songs and sing them while passing around big jugs of warmed, spiced ale. I missed out on the opportunity to sign up because tickets go fast and I was in Hong Kong when they were released. Luckily I managed to find an inside source to get me into my latest experience with old school Oxford.

My friend Sarah (doing a DPhil in law) is the Assistant Dean of the college. Essentially she gets free residence and food in college along with a modest stipend in exchange for helping the Dean keep the punk undergrads in line. Crucially she also gets an honorary membership in the Senior Common Room (SCR) with the rest of the fellows. This means she can invite people to dine at high table, even on Ale Verses night.

So I not only got to go, but got to sit at high table to boot. This means we gathered in the SCR parlour before dinner for a beverage. Then we process down to the hall and take our seats at the high table. The dinner was fairly standard (high table food is very nice, though) followed by pancakes for pudding (in England the sweet course right after the main is "pudding", which is followed by cheese, fruit or chocolate and called "dessert"). Pancakes on shrove Tuesday is a British tradition evidently arising from the practice of using up eggs and milk before lent, but now the heathens in Britain just call this day "Pancake Day" with no concept of its ecclesiastical connection.

After dinner huge silver tankards filled with warm, spiced ale are passed out to all the tables. To drink you first bow to the person on your right, then recieve the tankard from him. Then you bow to the person on your left, take a drink and pass. While this is going on everyone is standing on the benches in the hall and singing the songs that have been submitted this year. The verses are submitted anonymously, but a fine bottle of champagne from the college cellars is given to the authors of the best verse. Tunes included "The Star Spangled Banner" (after which I yelled, "Play ball!" but nobody got it), "Money, money, money" (with lyrics by the Chaplain about the college's newly opened "Development Office" in charge of soliciting donations from alums) and the winner, a rousing Brasenose fight song set to "The Men of Harlech", which is some Welsh battle song I'd never heard of (although I expect at least one member of the Williams family to drop some obscure historical knowledge in the comments).

After dinner I got to go to dessert in the SCR dining room. The fellows all sit in the candle- and fire-lit room and pass port, claret and sweet white wine (always to the left). There's cheese and biscuits, fruit and chocolate too. We also sang a few of the verses which there wasn't time for in the main gathering. Finally, the most junior fellow present must bring round the silver snuff box and offer some to everyone in the room. I think I took too big a pinch, because I almost blew my nostril off. Hopefully I'll do better next time.

We finished the evening down the college bar where I finagled a free round from first the chaplain and then the tutor for graduates. Given that every stage in the evening involved drinking, you can see why this country is full of alcohol abusers. Given that the fellows do this rigmarole every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday you can see why they're rotund.

01 March 2006

MLB.com is a gang of assholes

I received an email from MLB.com, which I almost tossed, imagining it was trying to get me to sign up for MLB radio again (which I probably would've, but didn't need the reminder). Thankfully I read it. After a few BS paragraphs about the new season comes this innocuous looking paragraph:

There is no action required to continue your subscription. The credit card you have on file with us will be automatically billed beginning in mid-March. If you have any questions about your subscription, please e-mail MLB.com Customer Service at customerservice2@website.mlb.com.

Thsi really grinds my gears for several reasons:

  1. They actually want to auto-renew me for something I paid for a year ago. I know that magazines and the like do this all the time, but it's usually for some subscription you're seeing every month. This comes from out of the blue after 5 months of inactivity.

  2. Nowhere in the email is there a link to go opt out of this.

  3. The only way they offer me to get in touch is the email address "customerservice2@website.mlb.com". It sounds like a fucking spam robot. Or some freshman's IM name. I'm really not all that hopeful that my email will even be read by anyone.

Part of me wants to completely boycott MLB.com forever because of this. Unfortunately I actually want to subscribe to this service so I can get my Joe & Jerry fix. What to do?